Neutrality of Heads of Government Agencies – Opinion – The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

A few days ago, it was reported that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmoud, was to run for the post of chairman under the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Around the same time, it was reported that a group of farmers had paid and obtained the nomination form from the APC to allow the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to participate in the The APC’s primary presidential election is scheduled to be held later this month.

In a quick denial of the report, INEC said: “The President remains a committed arbiter for free, fair and credible elections. His constitutional responsibilities as Chief Electoral Commissioner of the Federation and Returning Officer for the Presidential Election are onerous enough that he even contemplates straying into extraneous matters contrary to law, morals and his personal principles. The President will continue to discharge his responsibilities without affection or ill will towards any political party or candidate.

Unlike the INEC Chairman, CBN Governor Mr Emefiele claimed to have registered as a member of the ruling party in a neighborhood in Delta State about three months ago. Despite national disapproval of his involvement in politics, Mr. Emefiele rushed to the Federal High Court to seek permission to contest the ruling party’s presidential primary election without relinquishing the CBN governorship.

The ground for the legal wager is that as a political appointee he is not affected by Section 84(12) of the Elections Act 2022. In seeking relief, the plaintiff wishes the Federal High Court to uphold the decision of the Umuahia Judicial Division of the Federal Government. High Court on the subject.

Nigerians are wondering if the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Inspector General of Police, Chiefs of Service and Heads of Security Agencies can become members of political parties and run for office and thereby destroy independence and independence. impartiality of the public institutions they lead.

More so, an institution like CBN stores ballots and other sensitive INEC documents. Incidentally, both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have insisted on the independence and impartiality of electoral bodies and security agencies in the management of elections in Nigeria. For example, in Olusegun Agagu & Ors v Olusegun Mimiko & Ors (2010) 32 WRN 16, the Court of Appeal criticized the Nigerian Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission for showing bias in the election of the Governor of Ondo State in 2007. The judges of the Court unanimously declared:

“The only remaining appeal to consider is that of the second respondent/appellant who can actually claim to be an aggrieved party. The other appellants are nominal parties who have no interest in the outcome of the appeal. It is not up to them to decide who the electors elect and therefore declared by the Court to be the winner and re-elected. The main functions of these so-called callers are to ensure fairness and security in elections.

Public policy requires that the two institutions do not descend into the arena, and theirs is to tighten the rope in the interest of peace and stability in the country, thus, they should learn to remain neutral and strive to achieve the aura of neutrality bestowed upon by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I recommend to these appellants the attitude of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Navy, who also joined as defendants, but did not enter the fray to further complicate an already complicated proceeding. »

Similarly, in Attorney General of the Federation v. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (2007) 20 WRN 1, the Supreme Court reprimanded the police and INEC for their bias in handling the 2007 presidential election in the case of the Attorney General of the Federation v Atiku Abubakar. Speaking on behalf of the Supreme Court, Pius Aderemi JSC of Blessed Memory said:

“The 2nd and 3rd applicants in this case are the Inspector General of Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). The office of Inspector General of Police is a creation of the 1999 Constitution.

The Nigerian Police is also a creation of the 1999 Constitution. See Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution. Further, under the said 1999 Constitution, the Nigerian Police is and is under the command of the Inspector General of the police. The main duty; indeed, the most fundamental duty of the Nigerian police is the maintenance and guarantee of public safety and public order in the country.

In carrying out their duties, the Nigerian police must manifestly act impartially; it should not lean side to side; it must be apolitical. He must not take part in any dispute that has a political tint. These qualities are sine qua non to enhancing his public respectability. The appeal filed by the 2nd respondent (Inspector General of Police) does not credit the Nigerian Police; it paints a picture of the partiality of the Force.

By virtue of its statutory existence, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is also an independent body with constitutional powers to conduct elections in Nigeria. He must not only be an arbiter, he must be perceived, in the eyes of reasonable men, as an impartial arbiter in the conduct of an election. INEC shall never, by an act of omission or commission, place itself in a position where charges of bias in favor of one party against another will be brought against it.

“Neutrality must be the watchword of the body – it must always remain fair and focused. Considering the nature of the function that the Nigeria Police Force also performs, this body must also insulate itself so that impartiality and fairness can at all times be attributed to it.

A situation where both (the Inspector General of Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission, CENI) are appealing in this case is in very bad taste. They have both thrown to the winds the quality of impartiality and fairness that they must possess. Their actions are likely to erode public confidence in them.

Unbeknownst to them, they may be viewed by the public as biased and therefore unworthy of being considered impartial arbiters. This trend must not be repeated for the good of the nation. It’s a bitter taste.

In recent weeks, some ministers have mocked the neutrality and impartiality of the institutions they lead by buying up the APC’s outrageous nomination forms and abandoning their posts to campaign as presidential aspirants. . In the process, they engaged in a blatant abuse of power.

In Lagos City Council v Ogunbiyi, (1969), All NLR 297, 299, Ademola, CJN, stated that: “Abuse of power is the use of power to achieve ends other than those for which the power was granted, for example for personal gain to show undue favor to another or to take revenge on an adversary to name but a few.

Even belatedly, President Buhari called on these ministers to step down.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has abused his office far more than former ministers. Since it was confirmed that he has become a registered member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), INEC has expressed concern that sensitive documents kept at the Bank could be compromised.

In addition to undermining INEC’s commitment to holding credible elections in 2023, Mr. Emefiele’s involvement in partisan politics will further sabotage the economy under his leadership. President Buhari should sack Mr. Emefiele without further delay.

Falana is Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Ashley C. Reynolds